The European Patent Office (EPO) has revealed patent
application figures for 2017. The office received nearly
166,000 European patent applications in 2017, an increase of
3.9% and an all-time high. The EPO published 106,000 granted
European patents in 2017, up 10.1% on the previous year.
Benoît Battistelli, EPO president, commented: "In
terms of patents, 2017 was a positive year for Europe. The
growing demand for European patents confirms Europe's
attractiveness as a leading technology market."
The five most active countries of origin in 2017 were the
US, Germany, Japan, France and China. The US was the top single
country filer by far, accounting for 26% of all EPO patent
applications, and its share of EPO applications has been
increasing over time. The US returned to growth in EPO
applications – it was up 5.8% in 2017 – after
a drop in 2016, which had been a knock-on effect of changes in
US patent law under the America Invents Act.
Chinese patent applications at the EPO grew by 16.6% last
year. This growth was slower than the 24.8% growth from China
in 2016, however. It overtook Switzerland last year to make it
into the top five for the first time. Japan, with 3.5% growth
in applications in 2017, was up again after several years of
declining figures. The main exception to the growth trend among
the largest patent filing countries was the Republic of Korea.
Its applications fell 8.2% in 2017 after two consecutive years
The EPO reported that European countries filed more patent
applications at the EPO in 2017 than in the previous year.
Among countries with larger volumes, patent applications from
the Netherlands were up 2.7% (after falling 4.1% the previous
year), and applications from Italy (up 4.3%) and the UK (up
2.4%) continued to grow.
Germany was Europe's largest patent filing country again,
with nearly 500 more applications filed by German inventors and
firms in 2017, representing 1.9% growth. Applications from
France were up 0.5% after a drop of 2.4% in 2016. Belgium, with
a 1.9% drop, was the only one of the larger European economies
to have fewer patent applications in 2017, after a strong
increase of 7% in 2016.
While patent applications from the US continue to represent
a sizable portion of EPO filings, a Chinese company has secured
the number one filing entity spot this year, for the first time
ever. Information technology giant Huawei filed 2,398
applications in 2017, making up more than 1% of patent
applications filed with the EPO last year.
Siemens moved up from sixth place to second, followed by LG,
Samsung and Qualcomm. The top 10 list of applicants consists of
four companies from Europe, three from the US, two from South
Korea and one from China.
Breakdown by field
Medical technology was the technical field with the most
patent applications filed at the EPO. Its 13,090 applications
was up 6.2%. It was followed by digital communication and
computer technology. The strongest growth of the top 10 fields
was recorded in biotechnology (up 14.5%), followed by
pharmaceuticals (up 8.1%) and measurement (up 6.6%).
In terms of fields of invention, the EPO annual report shows
that the US accounts for 40% of applications in computer
technology, 37% of patents filed in both medical technology and
pharmaceuticals, and 32% in biotechnology.
"The analysis of the origin of patent applications in the
largest fields of technologies shows that some countries such
as China and South Korea are progressing strongly in
specialised areas, in particular in the ICT [information and
communication technology] field," commented the EPO in a
release. "Other economies, such as most EPO member states and
the US and Japan, showed a greater diversity in applications
across technical fields."
The fourth industrial revolution
The EPO has reported growth in recent years in fields that
it terms as related to the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).
An EPO study released in December 2017 found European companies
were particularly well represented in 4IR areas with a greater
diversity, such as artificial intelligence and smart
applications in vehicles, while Asian companies dominate in the
European patent applications related to smart connected
objects are rising rapidly, achieving a growth rate of 54% in
the last three years, the "Patents and the Fourth
Industrial Revolution (4IR)" report revealed. The EPO
identified more than 48,000 patent applications filed until the
end of 2016 and relating to three technology sectors of 4IR:
the core technologies in the ICT field that make it possible to
create connected objects; the enabling technologies that
complement core technologies, such as artificial intelligence
and user interfaces; and application domains of these
technologies, such as vehicles, enterprise and home.
More than 5,000 patent applications for inventions relating
to autonomous objects were filed at the EPO in 2016 alone and
between 2014 and 2016 the rate of growth for 4IR patent
applications was 54%. This is much greater than the overall
growth of patent applications in the last three years of
In Europe, Germany and France are foremost in 4IR
innovation. Germany stands out in the application domains of
vehicles, infrastructure and manufacturing, while France leads
in enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence,
security, user interfaces and 3D systems.
The top 25 companies accounted for about half of all 4IR
patent applications filed with the EPO between 2011 and 2016.
The study shows that innovation in core technologies is mainly
led by a limited number of large companies focused on ICT,
while inventions in enabling technologies and application
domains are less concentrated, and the top applicants in these
sectors originate from a larger variety of industries.
EPO patent applications
Origin of patent applications 2017
|Top 10 applicants
Patent applications at the EPO in
||Republic of Korea
||Republic of Korea
with the most applications 2017
EPO fee changes take effect
EPO fee changes for patent applications entered into force
on April 1. The majority of fees remain unchanged. But the
measures lower a number of costs in the patent application and
The EPO will not apply the inflation-based biennial fee
adjustment for 2018-2020, which is expected to result in
savings of €15 million in 2018 alone. The EPO also reduced
both its PCT search and examination fees by €100 each,
which is expected to bring about savings of €7 million to
the users in the next year.
Thirdly, the EPO increased the existing discount on the
European examination fees for files already examined by the EPO
in PCT proceedings from 50% to 75%. In real terms, the
increased discount on European examination fees means
applicants will now only pay €456.24 instead of
€912.50. For applicants that are using the EPO for search
and examination in the PCT phase and that are entering the
European phase, the various fee changes potentially result in a
decrease of €656, which is a 14% reduction over the
The EPO estimates the combined effect of all reduced fees to
result in a total of €25 million in savings for the user
community in 2018 alone.
Some fees increased, however. A reduced search fee has
historically been available for international applications
where the international search report was drawn up by the
USPTO, JPO, KIPO, SIPO, Russia's patent office or the
Australian Patent Office –the reduction to the search
fee in these cases was €190 since 2005. This reduction has
been removed now and the same search fee is charged in all
The EPO's appeal fee has increased to €2,255 for larger
companies, from €1,880.
The fee for non-electronic filing has also increased to
€250 whereas the electronic filing fee was held at
€120. This is part of the EPO's effort to encourage